Eminent criminal law expert Khandker Mahbub Hossain today told the Supreme Court that a total of 5,209 prisoners, who have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, do not know how long they will have to suffer in jails though life sentence refers to 30 years' prison term as per law.
They will have to wait to know the tenure of their suffering in jails until the review petition regarding the meaning and tenure of a convict's life imprisonment is settled by the apex court, the jurist said.
Citing a report updated by the department of prisons under the home ministry in 2017, Advocate Khandker Mahbub Hossain said 5,209 prisoners, who have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in different cases, are now suffering in jails across the country.
He was placing arguments as a defence lawyer before a seven-member bench of the Appellate Division of the SC headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain during hearing a review petition filed by one Ataur Mridha.
Mridha challenged an apex court verdict that on February 14, 2017 had commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment in a murder case.
The Appellate Division bench headed by the then Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha had said life imprisonment means jail sentence until natural death of the convict.
The same year, Mridha submitted the petition to the Supreme Court seeking review of its judgment.
Today, Khandker Mahbub Hossain, the principal lawyer for Ataur Mridha, told the SC that under Section 57 of the Penal Code, life sentence refers to 30 years' prison term.
A person convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in a case will get remission for a seven and a half years and therefore, the convict has to suffer in jail for 22 and a half years after omitting seven and a half years' remission from 30 years, he said, adding that the rules of the law cannot be cancelled by any judgement.
The SC fixed May 16 for further hearing on the review petition.
Earlier, the SC appointed four eminent jurists as “amicus curiae” (friend of the court), for hearing their expert opinions on the meaning and tenure of a convict's life imprisonment.
The experts have been requested to place their legal interpretations on whether life term means jail sentence of a convict for 22 and a half years after omitting seven and a half years' remission from 30 years or until natural death of the convict.
The four appointed amicus curiae are: Advocate AS Hasan Ariff, Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud, Advocate Abdur Rezak Khan and Advocate AM Aminudin.
They are expected to place their expert opinions before the apex court on May 16.
Citing the review petition, Mridha's lawyer Advocate Shishir Monir told The Daily Star that as per relevant section of the law and according to another apex court judgment, a convict has to serve jail sentence for 22 and a half years after omitting the highest remission if he or she is sentenced to life imprisonment.
Attorney general Mahbubey Alam earlier requested the apex court to settle the petition on whether life imprisonment is jail sentence until death or 22 and a half years in jail.